Public Liability

If you have been injured and suffered loss in circumstances other than at work or in a motor vehicle accident, and due to somebody else’s negligence, you may be entitled to make a public liability claim.

A public liability claim is a potential entitlement to compensation for injuries suffered in a ‘public place’ due to the negligence of another person or entity.

Most public liability claims arise from an incident that occurs on property open to the public (or class of persons) such as a shopping centre, mall, car park, government-owned facilities like schools, sporting fields and swim centres, or privately-owned premises for general patronage, such as restaurants and clubs.

Typical public liability claims arise from incidents such as:

  • slips and falls in shopping centres or other public places;
  • trips over items or obstacles left in walkways or clearways or trips caused by poorly maintained surfaces;
  • injuries sustained through using faulty equipment in a public place (broken chairs in a café, malfunctioning escalators in a shopping centre, faulty rides in a theme park);
  • school or playground accidents;
  • sporting accidents;
  • dog attacks.

Eligibility to make a claim

Generally, a successful claim requires an injured person to prove that, in the circumstances:

  • the defendant (person or entity against whom the injured person is claiming) owed a duty of care to prevent a reasonably foreseeable risk of harm;
  • the defendant breached that duty of care, either by a positive act or omission and was therefore negligent;
  • the injured person suffered loss which was directly caused by that negligence.

Proving each of these elements and making a public liability claim can be complex and requires careful preparation and attention to detail. Generally, we will need to obtain evidence from medical specialists regarding the extent of injuries sustained as well as other expert reports regarding the cause and attribution of liability for the accident.

What compensation might be awarded?

A successful public liability claim may award compensation (damages) from any one or more of the following categories:

  • past and future expenses for medical treatment, medication, physiotherapy, rehabilitation and other therapies, travel costs to attend treatment, domestic or personal assistance and retraining;
  • economic loss for past and future earnings;
  • gratuitous care services (domestic assistance provided by another person for the claimant for which the claimant is not liable to pay);
  • loss of capacity to provide domestic services (to the claimant’s dependants);
  • loss of superannuation entitlements;
  • non-economic loss (pain and suffering) for more serious injuries.

These entitlements and the value of compensation will depend on the extent of injuries and the loss incurred, noting that certain thresholds apply for some categories, which will be taken into account during settlement negotiations or if a matter proceeds to court.

What should you do if you are injured in a public place?

It is important to obtain as much evidence as possible of the incident that caused your injuries, and you may need a family member or friend to help you with this.

Remember to:

  • obtain medical treatment promptly and retain all medical certificates, health records, clinical and hospital notes, etc;
  • where relevant, report the incident to a manager or the security personnel of a public place and request a copy of the incident report and any CCTV footage;
  • record details of the accident site and any witnesses;
  • take photographs of your injuries and the scene of the incident;
  • write down the events leading up to and after the incident as soon as possible and while they are fresh in your mind;
  • keep a diary of your medical and other expenses incurred as a result of your injuries and attendances for treatment, time off work and need for assistance;
  • keep records of any lost income as a result of your injuries.

If you believe you may be entitled to make a public liability claim, you should arrange to see a lawyer as soon as possible to gather the relevant evidence and explain your rights and potential entitlements.

We have expertise in public liability claims with the majority of our clients’ claims being finalised through a negotiated settlement, which is generally quicker and more cost effective than proceeding through court.

If, however, your matter becomes litigated we will carefully prepare your case, advise you of any risks involved and advocate strongly on your behalf.

If you need any assistance contact one of our lawyers at [email protected] or call (02) 9708 2222 for a no-obligation discussion and for expert legal advice.